Review: Chez Wam
The next piece of the St Regis Gardens puzzle is a playful spin on modern fine dining…
Chez Wam is not a French restaurant. The name may be French (it’s derived from the slang for at mine, chez moi). The man behind the menu may also be French (star chef Hadrien Villedieu helms the kitchen). But Chez Wam is not a French restaurant.
It’s impossible to define the cuisine, so it’s best described as a solid Dubai menu. If Dubai is a cultural melting pot, then Chez Wam is a culinary one. Influences from the Mediterranean coast are as present as those from the streets of Tokyo, all of them come from the memory bank of the man behind the menu. We imagine that if we went round to Chef Hadrien’s for dinner, this is what he’d feed us.
When we walk into the restaurant, the second opening at St Regis Gardens, there’s already a welcome thrum of chatter, music and laughter. The space is small and intimate: dark woods, geometric terracotta tiles and plush chairs in varying shades of rust, marmalade and amber give Chez Wam a grown-up feel. There’s only half a dozen dining tables, set opposite a more relaxed lounge that’s backed by the bar. Then the space moves through to the completely open kitchen, where a handful more seats create a front row to all the action. It’s here that the the pass is transformed into a culinary stage where protagonist chef Hadrien and his supporting act deliver their multi-act show.
The overall ambience is instantly high-impact. The intimacy of the venue means every table has a great view of the kitchen. Many guests opt to prop up at the bar for a drink before dining. And the music is just loud enough to add to the ambience, but not overpowering. We’re instantly struck by what a gorgeous date night spot this already feels like.
The format encourages guests to share starters then order their own main, and it’s a format we like. From the starters we’re happy to oblige when the wagyu beef tartare (Dhs110) is recommended to us. A beef tartare, how original, we sense your eyes roll through the screen. But let us dispel any thoughts of lacking originality, this one is laced with wasabi peas and an impossibly light sesame dressing, topped with a thin crisp that we use to inhale every last bite. It’s a unique flavour combination that’s welcome and unexpected.
We move to more familiar territory with the lobster roll (Dhs154), which is a perfect showcase of high quality ingredients speaking for themselves. Although even this is given an unusual upgrade, with a perfectly toasted fluffy brioche roll encasing fresh chunks of lobster tossed in a zesty sour mayo and topped with chili powder.
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The hokkaido scallops (Dhs145) are plump, tasty and seared to just the right level that means the outside has a delectable crunch while the inside almost melts away. The trio of scallops are topped with broccolini, and neatly set in a creamy artichoke foam and subtle pickle sauce. Even a side of glistening butter glazed baby potatoes (Dhs35) are given a surprise smoky flavouring. A second main, the wagyu beef ribeye (Dhs355) also hits the high notes. It’s well cooked, and the rich accompaniments of confit garlic, caramelized shallots and a reduced jus balance each other well.
By the time we order dessert, chef Hadrien has stepped out from behind the kitchen and is making his way around every table, chatting to guests like he’s known them for years. It’s this personal touch that will truly set Chez Wam apart. And while we’re impressed by an Instagrammable tower of deconstructed lemon tart (Dhs43), with its layers of zesty lemon, crunchy meringue and a surprise raspberry sorbet at the centre, it’s the man behind the menu that leaves a lasting impact.
Verdict: Chez Wam’s menu will make you want to visit, but chef Hadrien Villedieu will keep you coming back.
Chez Wam, St Regis Gardens, Nakheel Mall, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, 6pm to 2am, Tues to Sun. Tel: (0)4 410 6707, @chezwamdubai